Ford Thunderbird (fifth generation)

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Fifth generation Ford Thunderbird
1967 Green Ford Thunderbird Fordor.jpg
Overview
Manufacturer Ford Motor Company
Production 1967–1971
Assembly Wixom, Michigan
Pico Rivera, California
Hapeville, Georgia
Body and chassis
Body style 2-door hardtop coupe
2-door landau
4-door pillared hardtop landau sedan
Layout FR layout
Related Lincoln Continental Mark III
Powertrain
Engine 390 cu in (6.4 L) FE V8
428 cu in (7.0 L) FE V8
429 cu in (7.0 L) 385 V8
Dimensions
Wheelbase 115 in (2,921 mm) [1]
Length 209.4 in (5,319 mm)
Chronology
Predecessor Ford Thunderbird (fourth generation)
Successor Ford Thunderbird (sixth generation)
Main article: Ford Thunderbird

This fifth generation saw the second major change of direction for the Thunderbird. The Thunderbird had fundamentally remained the same in concept through 1966, even though the styling had been updated twice. The introduction of the Ford Mustang in early 1964 had, however, challenged the Thunderbird's market positioning. It, like the Thunderbird, was a small, two-door, four-seater with sporting pretensions, but it was substantially cheaper. The Thunderbird's sales suffered. Ford's response was to move the Thunderbird upmarket.

For 1967 the Thunderbird would be a larger car, moving it closer to Lincoln as the company chose to emphasize the "luxury" part of the "personal luxury car" designation. Ford chose to abandon the Thunderbird's traditional unibody construction for this larger car, turning to a body-on-frame method with sophisticated rubber mountings between the two to reduce vibration and noise. A new option was four lights of the ceiling that lit up for emergency flasher use, low-fuel warning light, door-ajar light, and seat-belt reminder light.[2]

The convertible, increasingly a slow seller, was dropped. Instead, the company introduced a four-door model. The rear doors were hinged on the edge to the rear of the vehicle (suicide doors), as on the 1960s Lincoln Continental. The four-door would remain available through 1971, but never generated substantial sales.

The new 1969 Lincoln Continental Mark III was based on the four-door Thunderbird chassis, and from that point until the late Nineties, Thunderbirds and Continental Marks were generally related cars, the Thunderbird following the Mark's growth in popularity in the 1972 model year. The Mercury Cougar also often shared components.

The 1967 design was radically different from what came before. Ford's stylists delivered a radical shape that in many ways anticipated the styling trends of the next five years. A gaping wide "fishmouth" front grille that incorporated hidden headlights was the most obvious new feature. The look was clearly influenced by the intakes on jet fighters such as the F-100 Super Sabre, and was enhanced by the flush-fitting front bumper incorporating the bottom "lip" of the "mouth". The sides were the barrel-like "fuselage" style that was very popular during this period. The belt line kicked up "coke-bottle" style after the rear windows, again a styling trait that would prove ubiquitous. Large C-pillars (and a small "formal" rear window on the 4-door) meant poor rear visibility but were the fashion of the time. The taillights spanned the full width of the car, and featured, as in previous Thunderbird models, sequential turn signals.

The 1968 Thunderbird saw the introduction of the new 385 series big-block 429 cu in (7.0 L) V8 engines. Like most Ford motors of the time, they were tuned down to 360 hp (268 kW) for insurance reasons. The Thunderbird motors also got special treatment with wedge style heads, making a significant power increase over their conventional headed brothers. These motors made the cars some of the quickest and fastest ever produced, despite their larger size and heavier body on frame construction. 1968 and 1969 model years saw minor trim changes respectively.

In 1970 the Thunderbird was stylistically updated with the addition of a large, bird's beak-style projection out of its grille. Offered in coupe or sports-back models, all 1970-1971 Thunderbirds had prominent angular lines on the hood leading to a jutting tip, that also formed the center of the grill work, that was not a too thinly disguised bird beak. The T-bird for these two years had its most animalistic look that was fairly aggressive in appearance. Semon "Bunkie" Knudsen, the former GM man now President of Ford, is said to be responsible for this dramatic change,. As with the 1967-69 models, the 1970-71 models had sequential turn signals incorporated into the full panel tail lights in the rear of the vehicle.

In 1971, Neiman Marcus offered "his and hers" Thunderbirds in its catalog, with telephones, tape recorders and other niceties. They retailed for US$25,000 for the pair.

Production Totals[3][edit]

Year Production
1967 77,976
1968 64,391
1969 49,272
1970 50,364
1971 36,055
Total 278,058

References[edit]

  1. ^ Dusan Ristic-Petrovic. "File: 1967 Thunderbird Salesman`s Data/1967 Thunderbird Salesman's Data-18". Oldcarbrochures.com. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  2. ^ Dusan Ristic-Petrovic. "File: 1967 Thunderbird Key Features/1967 Thunderbird Key Features-04". Oldcarbrochures.com. Retrieved 2011-11-20. 
  3. ^ Tast, Alan H. and David Newhardt. THUNDERBIRD FIFTY YEARS. Motorbooks. October 15, 2004.